The guy who came in from the cold
For the past few months I’ve been getting my exercise indoors. While I have gotten on to a treadmill a time or two, I’m sorry to report that I haven’t been running much at all. Most of my running has been done in mild weather and frankly I’m a little bit afraid of running in cold weather. But I see people out there running every day in 20°F to 30°F (-7°C to ‑1°C for my friends outside the US) weather. So I ought to be able to do it too.
I’ve run outdoors three times in the last three months. Two were organized races: the Troy Turkey Trot 10K on Thanksgiving morning and the Saratoga First Day 5K on January 1st. The Turkey Trot was 32°F (0°C) and First Day was maybe 35°F (2°C). I bought long running pants in anticipation of my first less-than-toasty run at the Turkey Trot, and wore a long-sleeved hoodie. One nice bit of schwag from the Turkey Trot was a pair of gloves. I wore those as well.
The Turkey Trot was fun and that was encouraging. The Saratoga First Day 5K was a little warmer and quite sunny so I didn’t even wear the long pants or the gloves, though I did wear long sleeves. That might have been too much, as my face was clearly quite flushed at the end of the race. I needn’t have worried about being too cold.
Even after these two successful ventures into colder temperature running, I’ve been hesitant to get out there in the cold. But I’ve registered for races early this year, including the Helderburg to Hudson Half Marathon in April and the Electric City 10K in March. No amount of strength training with weights is going to get me into form for running, and there’s a non-zero chance that one or both of those races could have cold weather.
Yesterday I decided to get out there and go for a run in 26°F (-3°C) weather in the afternoon when the sun was still out but not very high in the sky. It was a difficult run. Almost immediately I felt my lungs and windpipe start to hurt from the cold air. There was a little bit of wind and that didn’t help any. I kept it slow (and boy was I ever slow) but it didn’t seem to help. I inhaled through my nose as much as possible to keep my windpipe from freezing, but I can’t take air in as quickly through my nose so I kept reverting to inhaling through my mouth to keep from feeling like I was getting starved for oxygen.
At about two-thirds of a mile in, I decided that two miles would be plenty and decided on a path that would loop me back toward home. It was a really uncomfortable push but at a little over a mile and a half I had a decision whether to turn left and go back home. I decided I could do a little bit more and went straight, on a path where there would be plenty of opportunities to press forward or turn back.
In the end I did a nice tour of the neighborhood, at almost four miles (my running tracker app says 3.87 miles but also displays a warning that GPS distance is 4.4 miles.) It was a very slow run but I stayed up on my toes the whole way and didn’t take a walk break except once to slow down so I could get my phone out of my pocket to take pictures for this post.
When I got back home I felt like I’d had a terrible asthma attack, and went right for my inhaler. Even back in my twenties cold air would give me some issues with breathing, so I probably should remember to use my inhaler before a run when the weather is less than toasty.
Unfortunately, the discomfort in my lungs has persisted all through the day and even the next day I’m a bit wheezy. It’s gone on long enough that I hope it is only the afteraffects of breathing too much cold air. I sure don’t want to get sick.
This should be encouraging. While the run was uncomfortable, I got through it and didn’t have to stop. It got easier as I went along. I was pretty sweaty when I got home so the light pants and long sleeves plus gloves seem to be mostly adequate for the mid-twenties. I might want to get a hat for cold days but it’s not really my head I’m concerned about and I wouldn’t want to be overheated. Maybe just something to cover my ears.
So it is encouraging. Mostly. It’s great to know that what seems impossible at the start often turns into something that can be overcome. At the same time, it was a pretty rough start and I’m still feeling the aftermath. Maybe this is something I can get better at, both in the sense that I’ll get used to it and in the sense that there are probably things I can learn to minimize the difficulty in future cold-weather runs.
I have to remember this as a victory, and just remember how much I liked it. Even if I didn’t.